Golshifteh Farahani Playing Hang - The Sounds of My Sweet Pepper Land

We might not have too many bona-fide celebrity ambassadors championing the small but growing world of Handpan, at time of posting.  But those that we do have, we hold dearly.  As it is with Iranian actress, musician, and singer, Golshifteh Farahani - who to date has appeared in twenty-five movies, and counting - including alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, in the 2008 released, “Body of Lies” (in which she became the first Iranian actress to appear in a Hollywood film since the 1979 revolution). And you'll also find her in the upcoming 2017 instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, “Dead Men Tell No tales”.  Additionally, if you’re not ill-at-ease with paddling out into the pools of world-cinema from time-to-time, it is here that you’ll arguably find Golshifteh shine brightest.  In movies such as “The Pear Tree”, in which she first gained attention at the age of fourteen, before going on to become widely considered to be Iran’s biggest movie star (before later being banished from her home country for her art), and “My Sweet Pepper Land” a movie we’ll discuss a little more below, which, to our knowledge, featured  the Hang / Handpan’s very first foray onto the big-screen, anywhere, ever.

But first, here's a recent video of Golshifteh performing on her seemingly-beloved PANArt Integral Hang...

The Integral Hang

Golshifteh Farahani’s instrument of choice to date has always been an Integral Hang, from the original Swiss-makers, PANArt (and there are a number of videos of her performing upon it around the web). Offered-up by PANArt circa 2008, the Integral Hang are darker, and rougher, than the Second-Generation Hang that preceded them.  And in accordance with PANArt’s previous moves to reduce the number of sound-models they offered, the Integral Hang was made available in only one tuning (D3 Ding with seven notes A3, Bb3, C4, D4, E4, F4, and A4 surrounding it in the Tone Circle).

My Sweet Pepper Land

Unfortunately, despite really wanting to give this movie a proper viewing, we’ve never been able to find a copy with English subtitles (despite the trailer above having them).  Which kind of forced us to make up our own dialogue for the characters as we went along - and whether that made for a better, or worse film than is officially scripted, it’s difficult to say.  My Sweet Pepper Land is essentially a Spaghetti-Western set in Iran, with an interesting cast of characters, an enjoyable cinematic-style, and of course for us, most importantly in this instance, several Hang performances, and more Hang music sprinkled in between, setting the mood.

Unless you’re the sort of Singing-steel fan who sees Handpan in the sky, and among the trees, and wants to watch this movie purely to catch the Hang’s cinematic debut, unless you either speak Kurdish, and/or read French, you probably won't find too much of interest in My Sweet Pepper Land.  However, that said, Golshifteh Farahani’s performance was captivating.  And just perhaps, we’ll see Golshifteh, and her Hang, centre-stage alongside the ever-popular, Captain Jack Sparrow, come 2017(?)...

The Art of Rock Balancing - And HandPan Music

While the connection we’re drawing between Rock Balancing, and Handpan music, is pretty tenuous - relying solely on the following video by YouTube user, PanDaman, we’re running with it.  Not least because it is something that we’ve recently found a certain amount of fascination with ourselves (we were introduced to it last year while visiting Thailand, where everybody seemed to be at it), but also because it just seems to be something that fits the tempo of the Handpan well, whatever that means…

What is Rock Balancing?

We expected it to be something that was some kind of ancient Chinese art-form, Buddhist practice, or something of that nature.  But research seems to suggest that that is not the case at all.  And while it seems likely that throughout history, all over the world, people have balanced rocks one atop the other, for whatever reasons drove them to do so - the art of Rock Balancing in its increasingly established current form, appears to be something quite new.

Similarities have been drawn to such things as “Cairn”, and “Inuksuk”, man-made piles of rock with much longer histories.  However, these structures usually served as landmarks, and were intended to stand for a long time.  Whereas Rock Balancing is considered to be a transient art-form, with sculptures having life-spans often counted in hours, or even minutes.  

The name of the art-form, “Rock Balancing”, is not unlike that of the “Handpan”, in the sense of being quite a practical moniker, that barely hints at its potential for creating truly intricate-beauty.  And in much the same manner that those hearing the Handpan for the first time are often deeply surprised that that wok / trash-can looking thing can produce the sounds that it does, the art of Rock Balancing requires a certain degree of sensitivity, with the ultimate goal being to generate that which appears to be impossible, but is in fact, only improbable.

And even if like ours, your own initial attempts are not overly elaborate (see our first effort below), there is something quite "Zen" about the whole process (in terms of being present in the moment), and also something quite satisfying, in successfully stacking even only a small handful of rocks, and stones, to create something, that no matter how short-lived, and volatile, briefly adds a little extra wonder to the world. Before once again being consumed and set-to-purpose, by the appetites of Mother Nature.

Improvisation JB Handpan - HandPan Tube’s Most Popular - May, 2016

HandPan Tube’s most popular video of May, 2016, came in the form of the following improvisational piece on a Handpan made by Jan Borren, performed by YouTube user, Inner Music.

It’s a nicely played melodic piece, with a strong poignant quality to it.  And the JB Handpan sings sweetly.  Cards on the table, we actually know very little about either Inner Music, the artist, with this being the very first video we have thus far stumbled across of theirs. Or even “JB Handpan” themselves, with this Netherlands-based “brand” being one that has successfully stayed pretty-much off radar for most of its development, with, until recently, there being little in the way of YouTube exposure.  And, seemingly intentionally, no particular name to lock-in on. Other than the increasingly frequent web-chatter of late referencing the name, "Jan Borren".

‘...I like how it is now, no name no logo.  Would be nice if people who own an instrument of mine say 'it's a pan from Jan' making it more personal…’ - from the Jan’s Pannen Facebook Page.

So, without further ado, you can take a listen below…

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